Classrooms will get updated emergency procedures

Posted on: Tue, 10/26/2004 - 10:29am
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Classrooms will get updated emergency procedures

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
By Juanita Westaby

The Grand Rapids Press

EAST GRAND RAPIDS -- The emergency response flip-charts East Grand Rapids teachers use in their classroom soon will include procedures for handling chemical or biological terrorist attacks.

The additions, which include how to handle peanut allergies, reflect the times, said East Grand Rapids Public Safety Director Peter Gallagher.

"They're the things that are current to us. They're the things we're receiving (police and fire) training on," Gallagher said. "It's nothing you haven't read about in the newspaper."

Of five new pages being added this fall, three have to do with situations that might naturally occur, but would most likely happen in an act of terrorism. Explosions, biological attacks, and chemical attacks each have their separate page, including a set of instructions for the classroom teacher and the principal's office.

Gallagher and East Grand Rapids Middle School Principal Ty Wessell head the committee that has been revising the district's safety plans in the wake of the Columbine High School deaths and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"It's on our scope every day," Wessell said. "We decided a couple of years ago we'd have to look at this every couple of years and make sure our procedures were up to date and our staff is up to date with them."

Wessell said the new pages apply to accidents as well as terrorism. "There doesn't have to be an attack. It could be an outbreak of something," Wessell said of the biological page of the flip chart.

Each classroom is equipped with the easy-to-access charts. Something as innocent as a chemistry project gone awry or a cleaning fluid spill might set the emergency procedures in motion."

In the crisis response guide, a page on explosions covers the possibilities from a boiler eruption to a potential bomb. It covers procedures for evacuating the building and taking attendance, but includes this 21st-century advice: Don't use a cell phone. "Radio signals and/or electronic devices can activate explosive devises," the flip chart warned.

Speaking of cell phones, they are such a given that all the phone numbers in the chart pages had to be updated. No longer could the page simply list the four-digit internal number.

"With a cell phone, you have to use the seven-digit number," Wessell said.

The pages on biological attack list symptoms that students and staff may experience, and ensure the public health department be notified.

The chemical attack page, however, is filled with contingency plans depending on the circumstances of the agent's release. "Here's the rule to follow to be safe: Up wind. Up hill. Up stream. That's the safe route," Gallagher said, summing up the page.

Another page covers peanut allergy and bee sting procedures, and a final page updates severe weather definitions and policies.

Wessell said extra flip-charts are being made for substitute teachers and coaches.

Both men say they are grateful to have such a close working relationship. "We really believe in doing stuff with the schools," Gallagher said. "We believe in the connection."

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